Cahill's revival makes him intriguing trade chip

July 21st, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO -- Ahead of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, the likeliest Padre to be dealt probably isn't Brad Hand (or any other team-controlled reliever, for that matter).
It's , the resurgent right-hander who has re-established himself as an effective starting pitcher this season. In 10 games for San Diego -- his hometown club -- Cahill has posted a 3.14 ERA, and he's striking out hitters at a 30 percent clip, by far the best mark in his career.
Cahill is slated to start Friday in San Francisco, one of two scheduled outings before the Deadline arrives. Thus far, he's successfully blocked out any trade chatter.
"It's fun to look at and to see excitement happening around the league with trades and stuff," Cahill said. "But personally, it's just out of your control. I don't really think about that, because I can't do anything about it."
Among the handful of rumored Padres trade chips, Cahill is one of the few whose contract expires after this season, making him particularly likely to be dealt. But setting Cahill's trade value is a tricky proposition, given the variables.
His numbers are impressive this season, but it's a limited sample size because of his two stints on the disabled list. Those injuries -- strains to his neck and shoulder -- resolved themselves relatively quickly. But they aren't ideal for a team shopping for reliable rotation help. It's Cahill's first season as a full-time starter since 2014.
The likeliest trade scenario sees Cahill as a back-of-the-rotation upgrade for a contender. In the postseason, he could also fill the role of long man -- which he did over the last two seasons with the Cubs before signing with San Diego.
"I came here because I wanted an opportunity to start again, try to prove to myself that I can take the ball every fifth day," Cahill said. "I had fun in the bullpen, but you see the value you can bring as a starter. ... Fortunately I feel like I've proved to myself I can do that. And hopefully I can continue doing that for a while."
What's been the key to Cahill's recent success? Well, he's throwing his elite breaking ball more than ever before. His 24 percent curveball rate is more than double his career usage. And he's throwing it in fastball counts, meaning he's using his two-seamer less than half the time (for the first time in his career).
It's for good reason, too. Opponents are hitting just .107 against Cahill's curveball this year with a .179 slugging percentage.
"It plays," Cahill said. "[I] just trust it and throw it, don't be afraid to throw it in the zone. It's a tough pitch to square up. I've just been pumping it, and I've had some success with it. ... It's one of those pitches that when it's good and it's going, I feel like I can throw it behind or to put away."